Hotpot is going Places

Last November, we introduced Hotpot, our recommendation engine to help people discover great new places when they search on Google. It’s simple: Rate and review the places you know, add friends whose opinions you trust and we serve you up personalized recommendations based on those tastes.

Since then, we’ve released an iPhone and Android app, integrated Hotpot recommendations into and Google Maps, expanded to more than 47 languages and enabled people to share their ratings and reviews to Twitter. While busy iterating on the product side, we’ve also launched marketing and community campaigns in five cities in the U.S.: Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; Madison, Wis.; and Charlotte, N.C.

It’s been incredibly exciting to watch Hotpot grow—the community has quickly expanded to millions of users who are rating more than one million times per month and enjoying a truly personalized view of the world. Based on this success, we’ve decided to graduate Hotpot to be a permanent part of our core local product offering, Google Places. Rolling Hotpot into Google Places helps simplify the connection between the places that are rated and reviewed and the more than 50 million places that already have an online presence through Google Places—places that millions of people search for and find every day on Google.

Many of you first asked us at Hotpot’s launch: Why the name? Hotpot, the dish, describes a shared eating experience. To us, the name embodied the communal experience of sharing your ratings and reviews with friends, and getting recommendations in return.

Though the name Hotpot may be going away, you can expect even more “Hotpotness” in Google Places. We have big plans to continue adding more features to Google Places that make it even easier to rate, discover and share the places you love whenever you’re using Google. So stay tuned to the new Google Places Blog for product updates, tips, tricks and news from our city campaigns.

Mapping Hotpot Ratings in Austin, Texas, to Discover the Popular Spots

For a lot of attendees at SXSW this month, including myself, it was our first trip to Austin, Texas. We’ve all heard stories about the great restaurants and bars found throughout the city, but I didn’t know where to start looking.

Luckily for us, on February 11, Google launched a campaign in Austin to promote Hotpot, a new tool to help you find the places you’ll love. Rate and review the places you know using Hotpot, and Google will personalize your search results based on your preferences and recommendations from friends.

To help newcomers identify great places in Austin, we began importing anonymous rating signals into Google Fusion Tables in near real-time. When a new rating came in, it was directly inserted into Fusion Tables using the Fusion Tables API. In the examples below we used a FusionTablesLayer with the heat map option enabled. We used Styled Maps to tone down the background colors to make the heat map stand out more.

After the first day of collecting anonymous Austin ratings, using the heat map function in Fusion Tables, we were able to see a few patterns start to emerge:

Austin, Texas – 24hrs of Hotpot ratings heat map starting on March 1, 2011

Just 24 hours of rating data was able to provide a good idea of where to target my Hotpot search in Austin, but I wanted to see what the concentration would be like after a few days. With just 12 days of Hotpot data, the heat map generated in Fusion Tables really starts to show much more concentrated patterns:

Austin, Texas — Hotpot ratings heat map March 1, 2011, to March 12

Having never been to Austin, I could tell by looking at the heat map that the hottest places in the city are along 6th Street, between Lamar Avenue and the I-35. Additionally, Guadalupe Street near the University of Texas at Austin campus also has a lot of activity. Based on the high activity, those areas would be a good place to start exploring the city.

If you’d like to watch Hotpot trends as they shape over the coming days, you can view more Hotpot ratings in near real-time on

Google Hotpot now on and around the world

Back in November, we introduced Hotpot, a new local recommendation engine powered by you and your friends. Using Hotpot is simple: you rate places on—restaurants, hotels, cafes—and add friends on Hotpot whose opinions you trust. Then the next time you perform a search, Google will serve up personalized results, listing places based on your tastes, as well as recommendations from your friends.

We’ve watched Hotpot grow and change over the last couple months, and today Hotpot is really going places: to a Google search box near you and around the world.

You can now enjoy Hotpot recommendations in your regular search results on So say you’re looking for a restaurant in Barcelona. Go to Google and search [restaurant barcelona]. If a friend has rated a particular restaurant, you might see their rating and what they had to say about it—as well as their name and photo—directly beneath that restaurant’s listing. To see all recommendations by your friends, click “Places” on the lefthand side of the page, and choose “Friends only.” Remember, you’ll need to be logged in to your Google account in order to see recommendations.

Seeing place recommendations based on your tastes and those of your friends across more Google searches will make results more relevant to you and maybe lead you to discover a new gem. If you don’t have Hotpot friends yet, you can invite them to share all the places they love with you by using the “Friends” tab on

But Hotpot will only be half the fun if you can’t share it with all your international friends. So starting today, we’re making Hotpot available in 38 new languages—including Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian and Spanish—allowing people to share their favorite places in their native language.

Start rating and sharing recommendations with Hotpot everywhere, anytime: at, on Google Maps, using Google Maps for Android with an easy widget, and on our new iPhone app.